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Why the Facebook gun change isn’t really a change

Monday, February 1, 2016 15:30
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To put all of my cards on the table, I am a member of several “gun groups” on The Social Network and even with all the hubbub of the past few days, I think the changes are much ado about nothing.

I grew up in a family with a strong military, hunting, law enforcement and shooting sports tradition which led me somewhat to find myself in the “family business” of being a gun enthusiast. Of note, I am also something of an amateur collector with a pair of gun safes reasonably stocked with firearms that are heavy in a few niches such as M1 Garands, small ring Mausers and Walther P-series handguns.

While I eschew the more social elements of platforms like Facebook, I nonetheless have a “dummy” account with no friends or personal information so that I can utilize the service as a news feed and connect with like-minded hunter gatherers of the firearms community groups without having to reconnect with people I haven’t spoken to since high school.

Overall, most of the posts I’ve seen in the past several years are more like the same show-and-tell type of thing that connoisseurs and pack rats of any particular item shares among their peers.

“Hey look at this sweet Webley I just picked up,” or “I found this random gun part in a box of stuff I bought at a gun show, does anyone know what it is?” along with the accompanying pictures of said new treasure or curio. You could swap out “Webley” for “Mustang” or “gun part” for “tractor part” in dozens of other less constitutionally-protected groups across Facebook.

And yes, private gun sales and trades occurred in these groups (gasp) which are legal in most states without a background check and, so long as no one in the transaction is believed to be a prohibited possessor under federal law, is allowed by Washington as well.

To be sure, I made a few trades myself, each time swapping a bill of sale and asking to see the other guy’s CCW, which serves as background check in my state, although neither move are required by my local laws.

If something or someone seemed sketchy, they were kicked out of the group and/or reported by admins—because it turns out that selling a gun to someone that isn’t supposed to have one has been a crime for generations, even back when people ran classifieds ads in their local print newspaper.

This left me as something of a fly on the wall in the various firearms groups I am a member of when the bomb dropped Friday that Facebook would ban private party-to-party sales made through the social site not conducted by an FFL. While gun control advocates from the Bloomberg camp and Connecticut Democrats who never met a gun restriction they didn’t like shouted victory from the battlements of the good fight against bad guns, the reaction inside the groups themselves was more muted.

Sure, there was the inevitable rant by some against the White House, Shannon Watts, Zuckerberg etc. etc. etc., but in the end, nothing much really changed other than the groups as a whole shifted to a more underground sort of affair. Most were “closed” to begin with, meaning you had to be granted admission by an administrator, but others dove deeper into the ground clutter of the one billion-member society as a whole, changing the group name and/or reclassifying it permanently to a “secret group.”

The private sales are still there and if you ask me, Facebook really doesn’t care about this because they have stated that they will rely on tips from members upset about the private sales to take action rather than perform their own digital witch hunt to seek out and destroy.

So in the end, everyone is a winner, right?

Facebook can show they are tough on seemingly unregulated gun sales, which is important for corporate social responsibility as the monolithic and publicly traded internet empire moves into the realm of high-profile payment services.

The Bloomberg groups and Senate Democrats can show they can win “important victories” for gun safety on the heels of very public defeats in recent weeks.

And in the end, the gun groups still quietly exist and do their things, largely self-policed by their own members when they see something that crosses a line, though they will do so in a less dimly lit and cordoned off area of Facebook. A lost tribe in self-imposed and regulated exile that requires a secret handshake to enter.

Thus, you have the great transformation and redemption on all sides.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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